There's no harm in it

I have been close friends with Kurt Adams for several years. We may go a few months without seeing each other since we are both busy, but when we do see each other it is never awkward or strange — we just pick up where we last left off.

AG clears Adams in conflict of interest probe

Reported by: Susan Sharon (June 2, 2010)

An investigation by the state attorney general's office has found that former Public Utilities Chairman Kurt Adams violated no laws nor acted improperly when he accepted a job with a wind power company in 2008. In fact, the attorney general says Adams took extra steps to avoid any potential conflict of interest and even sought the advice of two separate attorneys before he left the PUC to join First Wind.

The first time I heard of the issue of First Wind stock options was when my wife mentioned it to me last month. I was more than mildly surprised, and I'll tell you why.

I remember the first time that Kurt and I went out to lunch. We met at some little burger joint in Augusta. When the check came, I reached out and said magnanimously, “I'll get this.” After all, I did invite him to lunch, and the check was under $10. He responded, “No, I can't let you do that.” We went back and forth until he finally said, “No, you don't understand, I cannot let you buy me lunch because of my position in state government.” He really would not accept a hamburger for fear it be perceived as a bribe.

I thought he was nuts.

Through the next five years, I just learned to accept the fact that if we went out to dinner, lunch, or anything else, he would not allow me to treat him to a meal, or even a cup of coffee — ever.

I can honestly say that I do not know a politician, political appointee, or state employee who is more honest than Kurt Adams.

I grew up in a house where politicians were a part of life. Ed Muskie was a frequent overnight guest (his feet used to stick over the end of the bed). In the old days, things were a bit more lenient. We might loan a politician a car for the day, or maybe a week, or perhaps a summer if they were a close friend. No one thought a thing about it. Today, that wouldn't fly. (I can't say I'm heartbroken.)

Kurt is strict about his moral code — he's the only person I know that while working for the governor and then at the Public Utilities Commission, insisted on paying full sticker for cars. I have sold Kurt two cars while he was in government — at list price. At his insistence. He wouldn't even negotiate. There should be more like him.

Anyone who insists on paying list price for a car (twice!) is either too straight for words or crazy.

I don't know any of the details of his receiving stock options, but I do know that if given the choice of attributing his stock acceptance to either an honest blunder or bad ethics, I believe his ethics to be above reproach.

It reminds me of the answer I received from a Rabbi friend of mine in response to me asking him why Kosher Jews could not have margarine on the dinner table. (Kosher Jews cannot mix butter and meat, but they are allowed to eat kosher margarine.) His response was, “While there may be no harm in it, it doesn't look right.”

I have to say this of my friend Kurt: While it doesn't look right, I believe that there was no harm in it.

Adam D. Lee is president of Lee Automalls. He is also chairman of the Energy Conservation Board, which is being dissolved as of July 1, 2010. He was appointed by Kurt Adams while he was chairman of the PUC. Lee lives in Cumberland.

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Comments

Mary Nolette's picture

What can I do to get you in a car today

I really chuckled when I read this testimonial.
A used car salesman standing up for a government crook.

Karen  Pease's picture

Having Faith in Our Friends

Mr. Lee, I commend you for rising to the defense of your friend, Kurt Adams. No one wants to believe that a friend can do wrong, or be bought, or lose their ethics. I cherish my friendships, and count myself a pretty good judge of people... so I understand your desire to stand up for a man whom you have trusted. In all honesty, I hope your personal judgement is right. However, it's a sad fact of life that we ALL have our price. It may not be money; I hope that, more often than not, it isn't. But there is always something that we human beings will compromise our principles for; be it our family's welfare, our longevity... something. If we feel threatened in some way-- whether financially, physically, or emotionally, we do what comes instinctively... and that is: Whatever we have to, to survive. I don't know if Mr. Adams is guilty of compromising his principles, or not. I only know that things look pretty fishy. It was up to him to avoid all APPEARANCES of questionable behavior, and not just the questionable behavior, itself. And given the Wind Industry's track record, it certainly seems like the 'fix' was too easy... all they did was file an amended report, and voila! Their 'word' about what happened was accepted. That wouldn't have worked in my house. Not after the fact, not ONLY when there was a huge public outcry! We all make mistakes, but if they are truly innocent mistakes, we fix them IMMEDIATELY, once we discover them. We don't wait until we are caught in the headlights of scandal. I hope you are right about your friend. But sometimes, even the best of friends make mistakes.

Steve Thurston's picture

Kurt Adam paved the way for wind power

In clearing Adams of wrong doing, AG Mills said that the PUC has no jurisdiction over wind power. She could not be more wrong. While head of the PUC Kurt Adams presented numerous reports to the legislature and regulatory agencies recommending strategies for encouraging the sacrifice of Maine's treasured mountains for the benefit of the wind industry. These recommendations became laws that removed 50 years of environmental protections and reversed decades of hard fought conservation efforts involving hundreds of millions of private and public dollars. What AG Mills could have truthfully said is that while head of the PUC Kurt Adams paved the way for the wind "gold rush" that threatens every ridgeline in the state, and that First Wind merely rewarded Adams for a job well done by giving him a job that tripled his salary and promised him millions more in future benefits. Assuming First Wind survives its current fiscal problems no one should be surprised if Baldacci joins Adams as Vice President when he leaves office.

Rob Pforzheimer's picture

Hamburger wasn't enough

The hamburger wasn't enough. You should have offered more, maybe a million in stock options and see how fast your "honest" friend Kurt would have grabbed them.

Maybe the stock options and other graft Adams received is the reason he can afford to pay list price on the cars he's bought.

When I met Kurt Adams, the first thing he told us was not to trust him. We didn't and never will.

He fits in well with all the other crooks at First Wind/UPC/IVPC.

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